Individual Research- Blood Diamonds

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Have you ever walked into a jewelry store and admired all the shining, beautiful diamonds? Have you ever wondered where exactly these gorgeous stones comes from? Without being certified by gemological laboratories, there is no way to know where diamonds actually come from. I have a lot of personal experience working with diamonds because I am currently employed with a jewelry store. Each day at work I am exposed to massive amounts of diamonds, whether I am showing a customer a diamond necklace, diamond earrings or diamond ring. Some of our diamonds are certified but that greatly increases the price of these already expensive stones. However, uncertified diamonds could be from anywhere in the world. In the store I work at, we are unsure what continent our uncertified diamonds even come from. With uncertified diamonds, it raises the question of whether or not they are conflict diamonds.

Conflict diamonds, also known as blood diamonds, are defined by the United Nations as “diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council (Diamondfacts.org).” In other words, they are diamonds that are illegally traded to fund conflict in war-torn areas, particularly in central and western Africa (Diamondfacts.org). Conflict  diamonds came about in Sierra Leone in the 1990s (The Digital Universe). After watching the movie Blood Diamond, it really opened my eyes and put into perspective what actually happens to get these diamonds. Something that really jumped out to me was that “thousands of people have died but none have ever seen a diamond (Blood Diamond).” The fact that people are losing their lives over these precious and high sought after stones is astonishing. The movie also brought to light that rebel groups in Africa will go to villages and kill everyone except young boys and men. They capture these boys and men and force them to work in the diamond mines. They work long hours and are often beaten and sometimes even killed. All for a diamond that has a high chance of being bought and sold in America. According to Blood Diamond, the U.S. is responsible for 2/3 of diamond purchases and conflict stones account for fifteen percent of diamonds (Blood Diamond). Something I also found interesting was that an American reporter in the movie, who was in Sierra Leone documenting the violence taking place, said that “people back home wouldn’t buy a ring if they knew it cost someone their hand (Blood Diamond). I think this is a very powerful and accurate statement. A lot of people in our country just simply aren’t informed about conflict diamonds or if they know what they are, they are unaware of the brutality that takes place to get them. I found the following video on CNN’s website which shows the violence in Sierra Leone. http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-881410

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As an employee at a jewelry store, conflict diamonds is something that a few customers have asked us about. A couple weeks ago I was showing a woman engagement rings and she asked if any of the diamonds were conflict diamonds. So how does one respond to this you may ask? Through the company I am employed with, they took the time to make pamphlets that explain everything our customers need to know to ensure in their minds that we do not carry conflict diamonds. In short the warranty for the company I work for states “the diamonds herein invoiced have been purchased from legitimate sources not involved in funding conflict and in compliance with United Nations Resolutions. The seller hereby guarantees that these diamonds are conflict-free, based on personal knowledge and/or written guarantees provided by the supplier of these diamonds (“Our Diamond Sourcing Policy”).” As instructed by my manager, if any customer ever questions or asks about conflict diamonds I am to show them the pamphlet our company provides to each of its stores. The entire pamphlet is shown in the picture below.

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Another jewelry store, that is well-known worldwide, is Tiffany & Co. Tiffany also takes a stand against conflict diamonds and has even protested against them. Something that I found interesting was during my reading of War Games by Linda Polman. In this book it talks about children being sent to America from Africa in hopes of a better life. In regards to these children being sent to America, War Games mentions that “soon after their arrival in New York they appeared as special guests at demonstrations on the steps of Tiffany’s against giving ‘blood diamonds’ as Christmas presents (Polman, 71).” I don’t necessarily think this was the best way for Tiffany to get their message across about their company’s policy and its disassociation with conflict diamonds. They were essentially just using these children, who were from Sierra Leone, to act as a reason why Tiffany does not support conflict diamonds. They may have not had personal experience with conflict diamonds or even had a member of their family taken to go work in the mines. But since they are from the country where conflict diamonds are mined, Tiffany & Co. decided to use them in their demonstration. However, I do applaud the fact that Tiffany took the initiative to speak out against conflict diamonds and encourage consumers not to buy them.

Tiffany-and-Co

Despite the promise of certain jewelry companies that they do not sell conflict diamonds, it is hard to know for sure if the stone is not certified. If someone is still concerned about the diamond they are buying, I definitely recommend purchasing a certified stone, though they cost a little bit more. Certified diamonds come with certificates that give a diamond’s exact measurements, weight, cut and overall quality (kay.com). With certified diamonds, you know everything that you can about the stone you are buying. They also go through gemological laboratories, where qualified professionals state the characteristics of each diamond that comes into their company. With non certified diamonds, you have no idea where your stone is from or any of the qualities that comprise it. Since diamonds are such a special thing to buy or receive as a gift, I highly recommend purchasing certified diamonds. You want to make sure that what you are buying is worth it.

Another way that jewelry companies are helping to stop the process and sale of conflict diamonds is by signing the Kimberley Process. The Kimberley Process started when Southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa, in May 2000, to discuss ways to stop the trade in ‘conflict diamonds’ and ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements (kimberleyprocess.com). The company that I work for is a part of this process and mentions it on the pamphlet I talked about earlier. I think the Kimberley Process was a good response to the violence in Sierra Leone in regards to conflict diamonds. The Kimberley Process imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’ and prevent conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate trade (kimberleyprocess.com). The following link shows all of these requirements.http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/documents/10191/14969/0004_KPCS_Document_en.pdf Obviously the Kimberley Process can not entirely stop the violence, sale, and purchasing associated with conflict diamonds. Thirteen years later it is still happening and jewelry stores are still coming in contact with customers who are concerned that their diamond is part of this. But I do think the Kimberley Process is greatly decreasing the sale of these diamonds.

So how does a good global citizen respond to all of this? I think it starts with being informed. A good global citizen should be aware of these issues and violence, much like any other situation in the world. Conflict diamonds should not take the back seat to other issues because I think it is just as important. People are losing their lives so we can have a pretty ring on our finger or pendant around our neck. Being informed is key when it comes to global issues such as conflict diamonds. As a good global citizen, I believe they also have the responsibility to raise awareness about this issue and share their knowledge with others. With more and more people becoming aware of the process of conflict diamonds, it could have a great impact on the future of this industry. Consumers wishing to purchase diamonds should demand to know everything about their diamond or buy certified stones. If you ask and are informed your diamond is not part of the conflict diamond industry, that is one less sale of these diamonds. If more people simply ask about the facts of their stone, it could decrease the demand for stones mined in Sierra Leone.

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I do not think this process can be stopped entirely because 100% of the world’s population is not going to take these easy steps, and the buying of diamonds cannot be stopped either. Unless the world runs out of mines containing diamonds, people are still going to buy them, some of which will not care where they are from. But as someone who is aware of this issue and works for a company that does not tolerate nor sell conflict diamonds, I want people to know was actually goes on in places like Sierra Leone. For the people that don’t care, it almost comes down to greed. They aren’t concerned how the diamond they purchased ended up on their finger or around their neck, they are just concerned about boasting to others the new, shiny stone on their body, as diamonds are considered a symbol of wealth. Another quote from the movie Blood Diamond that I found particularly interesting was again from the American reporter. She said that if she reported the violence that was happening in Sierra Leone, that “people might cry or send a check but it won’t make it stop (Blood Diamond).” I completely agree because many times people see the terror in other countries and want to help but they may just send a monetary donation and call it a day. This may help a little bit but I don’t think it really helps the overall problem. I wouldn’t consider donating money an action by a good global citizen, at least not in the case of conflict diamonds. As I mentioned before, I think a good global citizen’s first responsibility it to be informed and to inform others. Then, take small steps in their daily lives that will contribute to the overall problem. Eventually, this may greatly impact the violence in Sierra Leone and bring the mining of conflict diamonds to a minimum.

References:

“Engagement Rings, Wedding Rings, Diamonds, Charms. Jewelry from Kay Jewelers, Your Trusted Jewelry Store.” Engagement Rings, Wedding Rings, Diamonds, Charms. Jewelry from Kay Jewelers, Your Trusted Jewelry Store. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.kay.com/ContentView?catalogId=10001>.
“Diamondfacts.org.” Diamondfacts.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://www.diamondfacts.org/index.php?option=com_content>.
Budd, Lauralee. “New Movie Puts Blood Diamonds in Public Eye.” U N I V E R S E. N.p., 14 Dec. 2006. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://universe.byu.edu/2006/12/14/new-movie-puts-blood-diamonds-in-public-eye/>.
“Conflict Diamonds: The Uncut Truth – CNN IReport.” CNN IReport. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 July 2013. <http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-881410>.
“Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.” Kimberleyprocess.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 July 2013. <http://www.kimberleyprocess.com/documents/10191/14969/0004_KPCS_Document_en.pdf>.
Polman, Linda, Liz Waters, and Linda Polman. The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.
Edward, Zwick, dir. Blood Diamond. 20th Century Fox, 2006. DVD. 1 Jul 2013.
Jewelers, Kay. Our Diamond Sourcing Policy. N.p.: Kay Jewelers, n.d. Print.
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